Raymond Peterson

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Raymond Peterson
R. A. Peterson headshot.png
BSc Geology
PhD Geophysics
BSc university California Institute of Technology
PhD university California Institute of Technology

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership 1969

Contributed by M. B. Dobrin

I am highly honored to have been asked to present the Society of Exploration Geophysicists' highest award to one of its most distinguished members, Dr. Raymond A. Peterson.

According to the Society's constitution, Honorary Memberships are awarded for a distinguished contribution to geophysics or a related field which warrants exceptional recognition. Dr. Pete, as he has been long referred to with warm regard by his colleagues at United Geophysical Corporation, unquestionably qualifies for such an award on the basis for four decades of outstanding contribution to geophysical technology.

Continually resisting the pressures which force most of us into increasing technical specialization, Dr. Pete has taken all knowledge relating to oil and mineral exploration as his province. His doctoral research at Caltech, which he carried out during the early 1930's, demonstrated a pattern of versatility which has characterized his activities ever since. His problem was to determine by gravity measurements the earth's structure below the mountains bounding the Los Angeles Basin. First, he designed and built a gravity meter of the Holweck-Lejay type, constructing it in the Physics Department shop during the hours after midnight because, being from another department, he couldn't get any other time on the machines. He then made observations with it along a traverse crossing both mountains and desert and finally reduced his data and worked up a geological interpretation. In the years since then, Dr. Pete has been responsible for many technical papers and patents in almost every brand of geophysics. He may be best known, however, as the inventor of the synthetic seismogram, a development which has not only been very useful as an exploration tool but also as a device for giving geophysicists a better understanding of what reflections really show about subsurface geology.

Although a voracious reader and a life-long student, Dr. Pete has never been able to remain in an ivory tower very long. As soon as a new development or a new area of interest in geophysics would come to his attention, he would not only study everything in print on the subject but would also begin theoretical or experimental work in the field.

When magnetic recording first appeared on the scene, he designed one of the first systems to go into use for exploration work. When digital recording came along, he decided that the best way to learn the new technology was to write a book on it. The result was his "Pictorial Digital Atlas" that has become one of the most widely read educational publications in all of geophysics.

When new marine energy sources were being introduced at such a rapid rate that most geophysicists couldn't keep up with them all, Dr. Pete made a systematic study of energy sources and published the results of his investigations in a small book that in less than a year has become the classic reference on this subject. By applying a generally forgotten relation development by Lord Rayleigh, he showed how the effectiveness of various energy sources could be evaluated from easily measurable parameters. Hardly stopping to rest, he then plunged into the new field of seismic holography, on which he is now preparing a paper.

Throughout his career Dr. Pete has derived such obvious enjoyment from his work that his enthusiasm has stimulated all who have worked with him. He has never ceased to enjoy visits to new and different places all over the world where his work has required him to go. Among his favorite recollections are long trips by burro over backwoods trails of Venezuela, canoe rides on the Orinoco and Magdalena rivers, sleeping in ancient caravansaries in the remote deserts of Iran, and air shooting tests in northern Alberta at 40 degrees below zero.

The great satisfaction which Dr. Pete has been able to draw from his varied career in itself demonstrates the unique rewards that exploration geophysics offers a man with the right kind of capabilities. In what other field are there challenges calling for the variety of technical skills that he has displayed? Where else can one carry out, as he has, creative scientific work in interesting and often exciting places scattered all over the world? There should be no trouble in recruiting men with top-level technical talent into a field offering compensations such as these.

By the same token, all of us in exploration geophysics can feel satisfaction when a man of Dr. Pete's great abilities chooses our profession for a career. Like the hero of Gilbert and Sullivan's H. M. S. Pinafore, who was highly praised for remaining an Englishman in spite of all temptations to become a Russian, or French or Dutch or Prussian, we are gratified that Dr. Pete has remained a geophysicist when he might easily have become a geologist, physicist, or engineer. By staying with us, Dr. Pete has raised the stature of everyone in our profession. In awarding him Honorary Membership, the Society is recognizing not only his technical contributions but also the benefits that its members have derived from their association with him and the standards of excellence he has set for all geophysicists.

In presenting you this plaque, Dr. Pete, I speak for all members of the SEG in expressing our recognition of all you have done and our best wishes for continued satisfaction in your work for many years to come.

Biography 1955

Raymond A. Peterson, a native of Colorado, received a B.S. degree in geology in 1931, and a Ph.D. degree in geophysics in 1935 from the California Institute of Technology. He was employed by the Geophysical Engineering Corporation from 1935 to 1938. Since 1938 he has been with the United Geophysical Company, first in field interpretation, and since 1943 as director of the Company's research program. During 1941 and 1942 he was on leave of absence on wartime research projects with the University of California and Columbia University.[1]

Dr. Peterson's interests are in the field of geophysical methods, interpretation, and instrumentation. He is a member of the Society of Sigma Xi, and Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Best Paper in Geophysics 1955

R. A. Peterson, W. R. Fillippone, and F. B. Coker received the 1955 Best Paper in Geophysics Award for their paper The synthesis of seismograms from well log data.[2]


  1. Contributors, Geophysics 1955 v.XX n.3. p.712.
  2. Peterson, R., Fillippone, W., and Coker, F. (1955). "THE SYNTHESIS OF SEISMOGRAMS FROM WELL LOG DATA." GEOPHYSICS, 20(3), 516–538. http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/1.1438155

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